The 19th Annual PantheaCon was held February 15–18, 2013 (President’s Day Weekend) at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose, CA. PantheaCon is the biggest event that Jo-Ann and I go to, with roughly 2400 attendees converging on the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose. With over 400 presentations spread out over the better part of four days, there really is something for everyone. As a Pagan networking opportunity, it has no rival in the US.
For the last few years, my wife Jo-Ann and I had gotten into the habit of arriving the day before PantheaCon starts so that we would be rested before it started. Catching up on sleep during PantheaCon is almost impossible, unless people are willing to knowingly miss out on part of the excitement. Given how full the parking lot next to the back entrance of the hotel is when we arrive, it seems that many others think the same way!
Jo-Ann and I had originally planned to leave home in Huntington Beach at lunchtime on Thursday morning and drive to San Jose by about early evening. We didn’t leave until 3:30pm, meaning that we had to deal with peak hour LA traffic, which certainly did not make for an auspicious start to the weekend. We arrived at about 1:30am, having stopped twice for meals. This PantheaCon was destined to impart a similar experience to the 2012 one, with us spending a lot of time networking and being very selective in the workshops we attended.
I should point out that everyone’s PantheaCon experience is different as there is so much to choose from at any given time. Those reading this blog should not assume that my experience is in any way typical.
We had intended to attend the Opening Ritual organizer Glenn Turner and Friends, but checking in, registering and visiting the Green Room (for presenters) took a little longer than expected.
I decided to attend a number of Egyptian themed presentations.
|Tony Michael and Jo-Ann|
At 1:30PM, Michael Smith presented “Osiris, Set, Horus: The Eternal Struggle.” Michael a.k.a. Gwydion Stormcrow, has been practicing Wicca, Magick, and various esoteric disciplines since 1989. He has been active in the pagan community since 1993 when he became a member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (ASW), a Wiccan organization in the Mid-Atlantic region. He is an Elder of the ASW and is currently serving as High Priest of Coven of the Rowan Star, a coven in that Tradition. He is a Priest of both Horus and Bast, and works extensively with the Egyptian deities in his personal practices where he uses a syncretic array of esoteric disciplines from Wicca and the Western magickal and shamanic traditions, and is inspired and sustained by his studies of Astrology, Qabalah, Ritual, and Natural Magick. He is also involved with the Tradition's New Alexandrian Library.
Michael discussed the popularly known myths of Osiris, Set and Horus, but there were a few lesser known insights. He reminded us that Osiris had brought civilization to Egypt. When he was victorious over Set, rather than taking back his throne, Osiris went to the West to rule the underworld, leaving the throne to his unborn son, Horus. This was his last civilizing act – introducing the principle of succession. Michael noted that Set would attract followers because of his strength and might who would invariably wind up wiped out, after which he would attract new followers. Also, a number of his followers, including the pharaoh Seti I had red hair. The colour red, is of course associated with Set.
|Tamara L. Siuda and her priest|
At 3:30PM, Tamara L Siuda presented “Offerings to Osiris: Sharing with the Dead.” Tamara L Siuda is an American Egyptologist and author. She is the founder and current spiritual leader of Kemetic Orthodoxy and the House of Netjer Temple, and since July 2000, she is an initiated priestess (or mambo) in Haitian Vodou.
Tamara’s short ritual involved writing the names of deceased family and friends on butcher paper. She told us to never write in red, as this is the colour sacred to Set. Rather we should write in green or black, which are the most suitable, but blue was fine as well. Tamara’s priest sprinkled water on the back of everyone’s head. Our arms were extended during prayer, much as they are in Egyptian paintings. The dead who had been prayer for, rather than being forgotten as is often the case, would then watch over us at PantheaCon. These names were then to be transferred to her temple wall where they would be remembered. Tamara’s temple prays for the dead on the 6th day of every month, and also 70 days after death.
|Tony presents 'Mithraism and the Mithras Liturgy'|
After the presentation, I had a book signing during which I was able to chat to a few interesting people. This was followed by many hours of networking during which Jo-Ann and I caught up with too many people to mention.
|Tony and Vivianne Crowley PhD.|
At 6:00PM, the Covenant of the Goddess Suite held a reception for Vivianne Crowley PhD. Vivianne is a psychologist and was formerly a professor at the University of London, teaching psychology of religion at Master’s level and supervising PhD students. She is a Wiccan High Priestess and has been teaching Wicca and the Western Magickal Tradition internationally for thirty years. She is on the Council of the Pagan Federation where she focuses on interfaith issues. She is the author of many books on Wicca, Paganism and spiritual psychology, including “Wicca: A comprehensive guide to the Old Religion in the modern world.” She was initiated into the London coven of Alex Sanders at the age of eighteen, but later joined a Gardnerian coven in the famous Whitecroft line derived from Eleanor Bone, and so she was one of few people in the seventies to be part of both Traditions. I only had a very brief chat with Vivianne as so many others were vying for her attention, but she was very pleasant.
|Jeffrey Albaugh, Jo-Ann, Aline O'Brien, |
Sabina Magliocco, Tony and Jason Pitzl-Waters
|James A. Eshelman|
James pointed out that in “The Vision and the Voice” there were 30 Aethyrs which were subjected to scrying in the spirit vision in 35 separate visions, for which 33 have exact times, dates and places. He explained that the Tropical Zodiac is the one which most people, including Crowley, are familiar with, but is inaccurate because it does not take into consideration the precession of the equinoxes. The Sidereal Zodiac, on the other hand, takes precession into account and is thus much more accurate. In most cases the Sidereal Zodiac made sense of Crowley’s visions, even explaining breakthroughs. I was fascinated by James’s recommendation that people read “The Vision and the Voice” aloud so as to immerse themselves into the mindset of Crowley who transcended adepthood and crossed the Abyss. I make the same recommendation in my book regarding Gnostic texts, particularly “The Thunder, Perfect Mind.”
|Sam Webster and his Herm|
|P. Sufenas Virius Lupus|
In the Hellenistic era, dream incubation temples were very popular as they facilitated contact with the divine, often with the aim of healing. The aim of the ritual was to honour Antinous as a moon-god and have him visit our dreams after the ritual ended through the use of chanting and other practices. Lupus uses the same Graeco-Egyptian spells that I use, and I particularly enjoyed hearing him chanting words of power which I am very familiar with. Lupus stated that he has multiple health problems and no health insurance, and thus owes his very life to Antinous. Their mutual devotion is inspiring. This is what Lupus had to say about his dream incubation and the other two rituals he was involved in.
|Llewellyn Publishing Panel|
The panel was aimed at Pagans wishing to be published, offering an insider’s viewpoint - where and how to submit your proposal, the timeline and the process involved. There were also practical tips on the importance of establishing a public profile. While the focus was on Llewellyn, there was also a brief overview of small publishing companies which are able to take risks on non-mainstream interest texts, as well as the self-publishing option.
|Tony, Christopher and Jo-Ann|
|Wendy Rule, Margot Adler, Don Frew, |
Selena Fox, Patrick McCollum and Starhawk
Starhawk was feeling sick and so spoke first, leaving quickly when her short speech was over. Starhawk is the author of “The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess” (1979) and the founder of the Reclaiming Collective. She works internationally as a trainer in nonviolence and direct action, and as an activist within the peace movement, women's movement, environmental movement, and anti-globalization movement. She gives lectures and workshops in North America, Europe and the Middle East, where she worked with Israeli and Palestinian women in the Gaza strip.
Margot Adler is an American author, journalist, lecturer, Wiccan priestess, radio journalist and correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR). Her book, “Drawing Down the Moon,” (1979) provided the first comprehensive look at modern nature-based religions in the US.
Selena Fox is a psychotherapist, teacher, writer, photographer, ritual performance artist, and Priestess. She is founder and co-executive director of Circle Sanctuary, an international Nature Spirituality resource center headquartered on a 200-acre Nature preserve in southwestern Wisconsin. She is one of America's best known Pagan elders, networkers, and civil liberties activists. She is founder of Circle Network, Lady Liberty League (which provides religious freedom support for Wiccans, Pagans, and other Nature religion practitioners worldwide), and the Pagan Academic Network. Over the years, Selena and her work have been extensively covered by the mass media.
Don Frew is a figure in American Wicca, the Covenant of the Goddess, national and international interfaith work, and scholarship. He is a National Interfaith Representative for the Covenant of the Goddess. Don discussed his extensive work in South America where rapidly growing numbers of people are returning to their Pagan roots but in a form which would be considered strange by American Pagans, due in no small part to the language barrier. The South Americans are resurrecting almost forgotten Pagan traditions and syncretizing them with the Christian practices that they had been brought up with. Don stated that he preferred to describe himself as a Wiccan rather than a Witch as it has less baggage. A Witch is often understood as someone uttering curses and mixing poisons. Don stated that it was always important to remain respectful of local traditions, in response to a question about tourists performing rituals and leaving crystals, thereby upsetting energy balances.
Patrick McCollum is a Wiccan minister and presenter on Pagan topics, prison chaplain, author and jeweler. He is dedicated to being a warrior for human rights, social justice, and pluralism. Patrick McCollum has been working as a Pagan chaplain and activist for well over twenty years. He was one of the founding members of the Lady Liberty League, and has been involved in numerous legal struggles involving modern Pagans. Patrick had just returned from the Kumbh Mela, a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river, and the world's largest religious gathering, with almost 100 million people in attendance. Patrick was an honoured guest who represented the Pagan community. He told an amusing story where he went off to the river to celebrate Imbolc. He informed the curious swami what he was doing, whereupon he found himself joined by 100,000 Hindus. Patrick also echoed Don’s words about the need to be respectful of local traditions.
Talented Australian musical artist, Wendy Rule, voiced her thoughts about meeting Pagans while on tour in the USA, the UK and Australia.
|The OSOGD and friends|
It was then time for more socializing.
At 7:00PM, Jo-Ann and I attended the “Working the Well of Magic in Witchery and Faery Practice” jointly presented by Orion Foxwood and Peter Paddon.
|Orion Foxwood and Peter Paddon|
Peter is a Brit of Welsh ancestry who lives in Los Angeles with his wife Linda, where he is Magister of Briar Rose, a small Coven of modern Cunningfolk. Aside from being an author, Peter also created the Craftwise series of spellcasting DVDs, and is the host of the Crooked Path podcast. Having many years of experience in various forms of Occult Studies, including Alexandrian Wicca, the Egyptian Mysteries, Rosicrucianism and Enochian magick, Peter finally found what he had been looking for all his life in the two Traditional Covens he became a member of in the US. The first was the Roebuck (1734, Clan of Tubal Cain), under Ann and Dave Finnin, and the second was Wildewood Grove (Welsh Celtic Tradition), under its Mistress, Raven Womack. Peter discusses his PantheaCon experiences here.
Peter and Orion co-presented "Working the Well of Magick." Orion told Peter that the only other person he has co-presented with is R J Stewart, so the pressure was on. Two ballrooms were combined by pulling back the movable dividing wall, and packed with over four hundred participants. Peter shared the art and philosophy of the Well from the perspective of traditional Witchcraft, and Orion from Faery Seership and Appalachian Conjure. They finished with a group working, where all the participants danced the serpentine around well and stang, and threw their coins in the well, and tied a string on the stang. Buoyed by their success, Peter and Orion and keen to co-present more workshops in the future.
Jo-Ann and I spent the evening socializing.
While there were a number of interesting workshops on offer, Jo-Ann and I only had time to co-present our own workshop. There were issues to attending to immediately before and packing immediately afterwards.
'Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love' workshop
|Ruth Barrett and Selena Fox|